Farmers face safety check
By SHAN GOODWIN
MEET best mates Allan Trustum and Stan Smith.
They have both run beef cattle in the Lismore district all their lives. They are involved in local shows and festivals ? even art competitions.
They love Australian country music.
The men are hardly a threat to national security. But under new State Government laws, men like Mr Trustum and Mr Smith will have ASIO agents on their farms making sure the cattlemen satisfy probity assessments.
Ammonium nitrate, widely used by farmers in fertilisers, has been classified a securitysensitive substance. It was the chemical which fuelled the deadly Oklahoma City bomb in the United States, which killed 168 people.
From this week, anyone wanting to use the fertiliser will need a licence.
Users will have to demonstrate a need for the fertiliser, store and handle the product safely and report immediately any theft or loss. And they will have to prove they are not terrorists.
The phase-in period continues until January 1, when anyone in breach of the law will face a fine of almost $30,000. They could also face up to one year in jail.
Far from being offended, Mr Trustum and Mr Smith say the move is not a bad thing.
"I'm not an alarmist, but you only need a bit of ammonium nitrate and a bit of diesel and you've got a bomb," Mr Smith said.
"I learnt that in the 1960s.
"If farmers have to go through this in order to tighten up the possibility of it getting into the wrong hands, then so be it."
The men did point out, however, that the $250 licence fee would be just another cost to be borne by farmers. They believe the cost should be shared, as the wider community would benefit from the new law.
"Sometimes I think farmers have to have mighty big shoulders ? they seem to have to carry so many people," Mr Trustum said.
The licensing scheme was a recommendation of the Council of Australian Governments' Review of Hazardous Materials, which is examining a range of materials that could be used by terrorists.
Ammonium nitrate was given priority because of its ready availability in Australia and history of terrorist use internationally.
Ammonium nitrate is commonly used by the mining industry as a raw material for explosives. It is also commonly used as a fertiliser on gardens and sports grounds.
The licensing system will apply to all products with greater than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate content.
Application forms for the licence are available from Australia Post.
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